Has spring sprung at last?

by Angharad Evans, Welsh Language Communications Officer

As I set about writing this month's Cornel Clecs, the sun is beaming through the window and its warmth is very much welcomed. 

The lambing season continues for many, with some choosing to lamb later in the season to take advantage of better weather and more pasture growth, but that has not happened this year. But, there are signs that we are starting to move out of the clutches of winter, the trees are starting to bud, the cuckoo has been heard for the first time in the area, and the swallow is sure to be seen somewhere by now too - I wonder if you've seen these signs yet?

But the winter of 2023/24 will surely be remembered for a long time - for the wrong reasons. Many of us wondered at one point when the rain would stop and give our land a much needed chance to dry out, giving hope for fresh spring pasture to start growing. Apart from a one week heatwave at the beginning of September last year, the rain has been non-stop since July last year – a heartbreaking fact and makes farming extremely challenging. We had a bit of a shock here at the end of March when we woke up to a thick blanket of snow! From one weather extreme to another!

According to Met Office statistics, last winter was generally milder than average, and the names Elin, Fergus and Gerrit became familiar to us in December, Henk, Isha and Jocelyn in January and Kathleen at the beginning of April 2024 as fierce storms hit Wales causing damage all over the country.

The winter of 2023/2024 has been confirmed as the eighth wettest winter on record, causing widespread flooding across the country, including farmland, with wheat, barley and vegetable farmers suffering losses due to the severe wet weather.

Of course, not only did the wet weather cause problems right at the start of winter, but the whole winter was one challenge after another. It hasn’t been possible to cultivate the land in order to sow the seasonal crops.

The lambing season was more frustrating than usual, due to the weather and the condition of the land affecting the condition of the sheep. Lamb losses were inevitable, and feeding the ewes and lambs outside was a problem due to the condition of the land and ultimately proved costly. The same problems apply to those farmers who are currently in the middle of their calving season.

Animal health issues have added to the challenges as orf, joint ill, twin lamb disease and pneumonia have become more of a problem. Farmers, working closely with their vets identify and treat these conditions in order to ensure the health and well-being of their flocks.

It is not an easy task to turn animals out to grass in the middle of a wet period, and as a result farmers have had to rely entirely on feed and straw. Of course this puts financial pressure on farmers who have to spend more money on food and straw this year. There is also pressure on those who transport straw to farms as there is ultimately a lack of straw with those who supply it.

The relentless rainfall has also placed increasing pressure on slurry stores and adds to the current challenges imposed by the Government. 

May is nearly here, the days are longer, and hopefully the weather will settle giving us drier and warmer weather, but winter will remain in the memory for some time for all of us.


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